Invisible Trauma: Can you Claim Compensation For Psychological Injuries?

Psychological issues are increasingly a subject of discussion. In Australia, our awareness of mental health has remarkably improved over the years, but there is still room for improvement. Statistically, one-in-five people will experience mental illness in any year. However, in the context of compensation claims, we see that psychological issues are often ignored or otherwise overshadowed by physical injuries.

How can accidents cause psychological injury?

As accident injury lawyers, we see firsthand how those injured in accidents have a hard time coming to terms with how their injuries limit their lives. This can lead to a change in their personality, outlook, temperament and their general attitude, which often results in a psychological disorder. In this state, depression and anxiety tend to creep in.

In other circumstances, an accident could solely inflict psychological injuries even though it may not physically harm an individual. For example, if someone is involved in an accident that severely injures or kills one of their family members, this would surely cause severe psychological trauma.

The effects of psychological injuries

While physical injuries can heal, untreated psychological issues can deepen and cause wide-ranging impact. Experts including leading psychiatrists confirm that a psychological injury, often triggered by a physical injury sustained in an accident, can have longstanding and significant impacts.

The road to recovery

These impacts can include a need for expensive medical treatment, an inability to work and a requirement for care services. Medical support such as counselling plays an important role in minimising the impact flowing from an accident.

It’s important that you are aware of the signs of psychological trauma. A mental health issue can only be treated if someone first recognises it. If you are not feeling like yourself after a serious motor accident, talk to your GP get the support you deserve.

Treatment can be costly. In some circumstances, an insurer of the at-fault party may agree to fund reasonable medical treatment. Alternatively, private health insurance can subsidise the cost of professional support. Medicare will often also fund a number of counselling or therapy sessions under a “Treatment Plan” verified by a general practitioner.


In a compensation claim, an injured person can claim money for the pain and suffering caused by a diagnosed psychological injury. They can also claim for financial loss that the psychological injury causes. Future treatment expenses can also be recovered.

If the psychological injury impacts their ability to work, this can also be compensated. An expert’s opinion – usually a psychiatrist – is often needed to receive compensation for any psychological trauma.

In a recent judgment of the Queensland Supreme Court, a first responder to a fatal motor accident sustained Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was largely untreated for some time. Even though he had access to workers’ compensation benefits, the officer recovered more than one million dollars in compensation from the driver’s CTP insurer for his accident-related psychological injury.

If you or a loved one have been in a serious accident, it’s important that you don’t ignore the invisible forms of trauma. Your psychological health matters.

Seek out support as soon as possible. You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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